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Code of conduct & complaints process

  Introduction
One of the important factors in preserving public confidence in a profession is the establishment and maintenance of appropriate professional standards of conduct for its members and the exercise of professional discipline over those who do not comply with those standards.

The Institute deals with the complaints about the professional conduct of members and students.  The standards with which a member or a student is expected to comply are contained in the Institute’s publication entitled “Code of Professional Conduct and recommended best practice guidelines” (Code of Conduct).  Any person may bring to the attention of the Secretary to the Investigations Committee (Secretary) any facts or matters which may indicate that a member of the Institute has breached the Code of Conduct and lodge a formal complaint against that member.  

The procedures for investigating a complaint and referring a matter for further investigation to the Investigation Committee are contained in Bye Law No. 1.   

The Code of Conduct includes the code itself and recommended best practice guidelines.  The recommended best practice guidelines are intended to assist with the practical application of the code.  The recommended best practice guidelines are not to be taken as a replacement of the code and the code will always take precedence where there is any ambiguity.

Making a complaint against a member is not a substitute for seeking damages or other redress through the courts. The Institute’s jurisdiction over members is disciplinary in nature and the Institute is not in a position to provide legal advice. If a complainant feels that they have a claim in law against a member of the Institute then they may wish to seek independent legal advice. The Institute cannot intervene in fee disputes, as it considers that the courts are the proper forum for such matters. Nor can the Institute advise on what is a reasonable sum for work done. The process can only consider cases where there is alleged professional misconduct and where a complainant is alleging a criminal offence, the complainant should report this matter to the appropriate authority.


The Complaints Procedure
Because the Institute expects their members and students to maintain standards of work and conduct which are compatible with the importance of the tax profession and which meet the expectations of the public, the system allows a person to make a complaint if they believe these standards have been breached.

Any member of the public can at any time approach the Secretary for information about the standards of conduct which apply.

A complaint about the professional conduct of a member or student can be made to the Secretary by contacting Martin Lambe in the Institute at +353 1 6631700. 

The role of the Investigation Committee is to investigate all matters referred for examination in order to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been made out against the member who has been complained about. (A prima facie case means that there is an arguable case to answer.) The Committee comprises of 3 Council members of the Institute and an independent Senior Counsel who is not a member of the Institute. The independent lawyer must be present at all meetings of the Committee so that there is a valid quorum.  The Committee meets in private and neither the complainant nor the Member is invited to attend and all the consideration is based on the documentary evidence submitted.

The Committee will examine the material submitted to it and, if appropriate, will request the Secretary to undertake any further enquiries which it considers necessary to ascertain the full facts of the complaint and the evidence available to support the allegation. After full investigation and examination of the available information, the Committee may dismiss the complaint or find that there is a prima facie case to answer. If there is found to be a prima facie case to answer, the Committee may decide to admonish the member if it is not serious enough to merit any sanction available to the Disciplinary Committee, or to refer the complaint to the next stage which is the Disciplinary Committee. The complainant and the member under investigation will be advised of the Committee's decision. Since January 2012 a complainant has a right of appeal to an Independent Adjudicator if they object the Committee's decision. The Independent Adjudicator, whose decision is final, may uphold the Committee's decision or refer the matter back to the Investigation Committee, who will consider the matter afresh.
 
The Investigation Committee has discretion to defer consideration of a case against a member if it believes there are reasonable grounds for doing so. Such grounds would include, but are not limited to, proceedings of a civil or criminal nature in a competent Court relating to the issues identified in the complaint. 

The latest versions of the Code of Professional Conduct and Recommended Best Practice Guidelines and Bye Law No. 1 are available below:

Code of Professional Conduct
Bye-law No. 1